Working for the Man: The Island Years

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Released prior to remastered, extras-stuffed versions of Tindersticks' first five studio albums, Working for the Man is a useful introduction that is a little more representative than the nonspecific Donkeys 92-97 compilation, itself a bizarre scramble of A-sides, stray tracks, and previously unreleased material. This disc nearly rectifies the inherent uncertainty that results when you poll any number of Tindersticks fans about the best album to start with. (You want to hear Sam Cooke's Night Beat crossed with Roxy Music ballads, so get Simple Pleasure. No, you want several variations on Joy Division's "I Remember Nothing" cast against a widescreen Scott Walker backdrop, so try the second album. It doesn't matter, because they're all practically the same and they're all bloody masterpieces. And so forth, until you suddenly forget that you ever thought of giving the band a shot.) The disc cuts off chronologically at 1999, before Tindersticks parted ways with Island and joined with Beggars Banquet, so it doesn't include anything from 2001's Can Our Love... or 2003's Waiting for the Moon. At only 11 tracks, it's concise to a fault, focusing on the primary singles and chickening out on making any judgment calls about the group's best album cuts. A more effective starter disc would've included at least a few non-singles, which are often more alluringly morose and wonderfully grandiose than the singles. Even so, there's enough heartache, longing, sleaze, and debauchery contained within Working for the Man to indicate how much will be lost by not devouring each studio album in its entirety. The initial batch of copies adds a second disc of B-sides and rarities (including the entirety of the Kathleen EP). Most (if not all) of the tracks on that disc weren't included on the reissues, so consider yourself duly tortured if you're trying to gather up everything this group recorded.

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